November 01, 2013

The Poet Turns Historian



The Poet Turns Historian

By 1803, Nikolai Mikhailovich Karamzin seemed to be at the pinnacle of his career.

All educated Russia was reading his poetry, and for several years already his 1792 novel Poor Liza had enjoyed cult status. Not only was it universally known, but the pond near Moscow’s Simonov Monastery – where the unfortunate Liza tragically ends her life after being loved and forsaken by the dastardly nobleman Erast – had become a place of pilgrimage. Touching tributes were carved into nearby trees. (The less sentimentally-minded left satirical epigrams, such as: “Here Erast’s lover dove to her doom/Drown yourselves, ladies, there’s plenty of room!”)

Karamzin, however, did not live exclusively in the removed world of literature and sentiment. He had talents and concerns beyond rending the hearts of readers (especially those belonging to the “fair sex”).


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